Apparently, in the eyes of Kentucky state law, Black lives do not matter. That’s what many people think now that Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that his office would not be bringing any criminal charges against two of the three Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers who shot into the apartment home of Breonna Taylor, killing the 26-year-old Black woman on March 13.
A secret grand jury found the third officer involved in the case would only face three charges of wanton endangerment. No charges involve the direct shooting death of Taylor by police.
“The loss of Ms. Breonna Taylor’s life is a tragedy, and our office has worked tirelessly since receiving the case in mid-May to review all of the evidence in preparation for presenting it to an independent Grand Jury,” said Cameron. “The Grand Jury determined that there is no evidence to support a criminal violation of state law caused Ms. Taylor’s death. The Grand Jury found that there was sufficient evidence to indict Detective Hankison for wanton endangerment for firing his weapon outside a sliding glass door and through a bedroom window, with some bullets traveling through that apartment and entering the apartment next door while three residents were at home.”
Cameron, sounding like he was reading a script from a puppet show, tried to say all the right things during his “don’t look here” press conference. But his announcement of the grand jury findings was a blow to justice. Protesters hit the streets immediately. Meanwhile, organizations like the Grassroots Law Project were quick to denounce the lack of accountability in the death of Taylor.
“Today, Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced that the grand jury failed to indict any of the officers for Breonna Taylor’s death, and that they would indict only Officer Brett Hanksinson with shots fired into other apartments during the senseless killing,” said Attorney Lee Merritt, co-founder of the Grassroots Law Project. “The failure to fire, arrest and indict the officers for killing killed Breonna Taylor is a miscarriage of justice that reveals how broken and unequal the legal system is in America.”
The death of Taylor has been a part of the growing narrative around the country of directly addressing police brutality and police violence against Black Americans and people of color. The death of George Floyd on May 25 by a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer who sat or knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, suffocating the life out of the 46-year-old Black man, has led to worldwide protests and have led to calls to defund police departments across the United States.
The unfortunate death of Floyd and the relentless pull for justice by Until Freedom, a social justice organization, helped shed light on the Taylor case, which had not received any type of national attention. The world is watching now. And has been for a while now. What they see is not a good look.
The three LMPD officers in question are Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hankison, and Detective Myles Cosgrove, who were conducting an alleged no-knock warrant, which Cameron disputes, looking for narcotics.
No drugs were ever found at Taylor’s apartment. Using a battering ram, police forced their way into Taylor’s apartment where they were greeted with gunfire by the emergency medical technician’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Police allegedly say they made the announcement identifying themselves.
Walker has reportedly said he and Taylor only heard pounding on the door. When all the gunfire smoke had cleared, Taylor had six bullets pumped into her young body as a total of 32 shots rang out from the three police officers.
Taylor’s death certificate indicated she was shot five times. Cameron informed the public, Taylor was actually hit six times. One of those bullets, fired by Cosgrove, was a kill shot. And so, six months after an innocent woman was shot and killed by those sworn to protect and serve, justice does not look like it will be served for Taylor or her memory.
Sure, the Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance called Breonna’s Law, which would end no-knock warrants by police, and yes, the city’s police department named a Black woman as interim police chief over the summer to replace the outgoing police chief. The LMPD fired Hankinson for his role in the shooting. And just a week (Sept. 15, 2020) after the city decided to give Taylor’s family a $12 million buyout, did Cameron’s grand jury announcement come.
— Dr. Tyrone Jackson, Jr. (@TyroneJacksonJr) September 24, 2020
Is this true justice where money can buy a life? What kind of financial bargaining chip can anyone place on Taylor’s life? Until Freedom released a statement after the civil settlement was announced that no monetary receivables is enough to compensate for Taylor’s life.
“No amount of money will bring back Breonna Taylor,” Until Freedom’s statement read. “We see this settlement as the bare minimum you can do for a grieving mother. Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mom, is a warrior. She is still fighting, as are we. The city isn’t doing Ms. Palmer any favors. True justice is not served with cash settlements. We need those involved in her murder to be fired, arrested and charged. We need accountability. We need justice.”
It appears Taylor’s life has been measured in some form of fleeting monetary value and a couple of placating police reform initiatives. The message that Cameron and his office conveys in Taylor’s death is that if you’re quietly snoozing and occupying SWB (Sleep While Black) space, your life can become moot at any time and that the police have the right to shoot and kill without any type of repercussion.
“While LMPD was quick to arrest residents on suspicion of mundane matters, they let the individuals responsible for Taylor’s killing walk free,” said Shaun King, activist and co-founder of the Grassroots Law Project. “They did this while dragging out the investigation, leaving the family and residents to cope with the devastating, even if predictable, news of their decision.”
“Sadly, officials in Louisville denied the dignity of life and turned a blind eye to the tremendous harm wrought by one of their own,” King added. “This decision, masquerading under presumed logic, is yet another signal to the local police department and law enforcement across the country that Black lives are not worthy of recognizing or saving. Breonna Taylor should be alive today. Her killers are in jail. Until the people responsible are held to account, pleas for peace will fall on weary hearts and unreceptive ears.”